Sunday, October 23, 2011

I'll Be Dog Gone

One of the nice things about the end of summer is that I have the beach all to myself again.  Not too many people are keen to hang around when it's wet of course, or even, for that matter, when it's sunny because it isn't warm anymore.  Without sun and warmth there isn't much point in lying on a beach no matter how much imagination a person may have.  Sunbathing is strictly a summertime activity in Vancouver.  After that it's off to Hawaii or Mexico.

English Bay

But there are some people who still love to go walking in the sand no matter what the season is and perhaps even go for a skinny dip in the ocean as well, even if it might mean breaking the law.  No I'm not referring to some weird cult of west coast naturalists, I'm talking about your best friend and mine, the dogs. And if you haven't been around the west end lately you might be surprised to see how many dogs of all shapes, sizes, and breeds are now living in the land of high rise buildings with no back yards.

Dogs on Seawall photo by Junie Quiroga

Not having a back yard can make it difficult for an owner to deal with a dog's daily routine unless a person is prepared to get up every day at the same time, rain or shine, and take Fido for their morning constitutional; doggy bag in hand of course.  There's usually an evening one as well and then sometime during the day a nice run would also be appreciated.  So how and where does a person fit all this into their schedule and stay within the City rules & regulations?

photo by Junie Quiroga

The walking part isn't bad because, as long as the dog is on a leash, they can walk just about anywhere they want except on designated bathing beaches, of which there are 10 along English Bay from Spanish Banks to Third Beach.  Dogs are also forbidden to be in the water adjacent to a bathing beach.  If they want to go without a leash then they need to visit one of the 33 off-leash areas set aside by the Parks Board or swim in an area not being used by bathers.
Dogs on Seawall photo by Junie Quiroga

Even though I swim every day in the ocean I wouldn't exactly call it bathing, that's something I do when I get back home.  Sunbathing, as we've also discussed, is something that's done for only 4 months of the year at best, so what about the other 8 months?  Does this mean the beaches are open for dogs when there is no bathing of any kind going on?  And what are the bathing hours?  The rules aren't very clear.

Dog on Seawall photo by Junie Quiroga
Where does the bathing beach actually begin?  If it's above the high tide water line, which would keep it consistent with the federal rules on where oceanfront property begins, then how can the City forbid dogs from walking, leashed or not, along the water's edge?  For that matter how can the City regulate who is using the ocean when that's something that falls under federal jurisdiction? And if you accessed the shoreline from a non bathing beach can you keep walking along? Again the rules aren't very clear.

Dog on English Bay photo by Junie Quiroga
I don't own a dog, but personally I don't think there's anything nicer than seeing a dog having a good run along the beach chasing a ball or a frisbee or fetching a stick that's been thrown in the ocean.  The owner's arm usually wears out long before the dog ever does and the dogs are just so happy to get some healthy exercise.  Occasionally a dog will join me in the water as I'm finishing my swim or get curious about a seal that might be lurking nearby but otherwise they really aren't in the ocean all that much.

Dogs playing at English Bay

The fine for not having a dog leashed or being on a bathing beach with your dog is $250.00 and it can go up from there if the dog is impounded or if it doesn't have a license.  Dog owners who take their pets down to the beach in the early morning hours for a walk or a swim may have figured out a few loopholes that keep the enforcement officers away, particularly in the off-season, but it's too bad they have to skulk about like criminals when there are so many other people openly breaking other beach rules. I would much rather see dogs on the beach than the suburban trouble makers, drifters and druggies that hang around always causing a disturbance and not bothering to pick up the trash they leave behind.

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